North Korea announced on Wednesday that it will now recognize the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, two Russian-backed separatist states that broke away from Ukraine in 2014. “North Korean Ambassador Sin Hong-chol has presented a document on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s decision to recognize the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic to DPR Ambassador Olga Makeyeva,” the DPR embassy said in a statement on Telegram on Wednesday. TASS reports that Makeyeva expressed confidence that “cooperation between countries, which now has official status, will be fruitful and mutually beneficial.”
DPR leader Denis Pushilin stated that “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic today,” he wrote on Telegram. “The international status of the Donetsk People’s Republic and its statehood continue to get stronger. This is another diplomatic victory for us,” Pushilin added. He thanked North Korea for its “great support for the Donbass people.” “This political decision will also provide the basis for the future development of economic relations. Bilateral partnership will make it possible for our companies to expand their trade. I look forward to active and fruitful cooperation,” with North Korea, the isolated, nuclear-armed state that sits more than 4,000 miles (6,500 km) away.
Prior to this, only the Russian puppet states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and close ally of Syria had recognized the two breakaway Ukrainian, Pro-Russian states. Russia has militarily and economically supported the regions since 2014, and recognized them on the eve of its invasion of Ukraine. Using the separatist states as justification for the war, claiming it was protecting Russian-speakers in the DPR/LPR from Ukrainian “genocide”. North Korea had previously supported Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
This also comes as the DPR opened an embassy in Moscow and defended its right to capital punishment for combatants that it classifies as “mercenaries”. A label it has liberally applied to enlisted servicemembers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces who were previously foreign nationals, or who are foreign volunteers serving in the International Foreign Legion, which is part of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces under the Armed Forces. It should be noted that under the Geneva conventions, these combatants would not be classified as mercenaries due to the fact of their role as part of recognized armed forces. This is opposed to private military contractors (PMCs) such as the Russian-aligned Wagner Group, which does not even officially exist, and which the Russian Ministry of Defense claims is not connected to Russia. Despite being controlled by a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, and having been caught training on Russian clandestine military bases as well as receiving supplies from the Russian military.